The armed struggle being waged by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is essentially a civil war. So was the armed resistance of the Moro National Liberation Front, (MNLF), which culminated in a political solution, the creation of a new, expanded regional autonomous government. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) likewise describes its nationwide protracted armed struggle as a type of civil war.
A lot of people may disagree with me. They may wisely counter my arguments with the question: What is the best alternative? To set things straight, I am not against the MOA-AD. However, I am against the process of limited consultation of the stakeholders within the proposed territory or the absence of it. For example, the MOA-AD had contained the engagement of the Philippine Congress in the negotiation process to a minimum; this may prove to be problematic since members of Congress will be instrumental in implementing the MOA-AD. Also, I am against the idea of not drawing lessons from the ARMM experience, upon which many essential analyses can be made to help formulate better terms for the agreement. The MILF spokesperson, Atty. Musib Buat, says that it is their strategy to get the endorsement of the International Monitoring Team, which recently gave a statement that it would call off their endorsement if the MOA is not signed by the last day of August 2008. This is an excellent strategic framework, but again, both the MILF and the GRP camps lack an operational framework that can prevent the ARMM tragedy from recurring. Thus I am inclined to call BJE as ARMM II, just as Filipinos conveniently coined EDSA II.
At his press briefing last week, Secretary Eduardo Ermita assured everyone that a final peace agreement with the MILF will be under a “totality clause” that will say, “[A]ny conflict in the interpretation of this agreement shall be within the light of the Constitution of the Philippines and existing laws.”
He meant he hopes our Constitution will be retrofitted to accommodate a new type of state, one with two central banks, two armed forces, two police forces, two Comelecs, and two Supreme Courts among other symptoms of national schizophrenia. Ermita’s hope will realize Gloria Arroyo’s nightmare vision of two Philippines.
The unsigned Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) is under attack now for being unconstitutional, because some of its provisions go beyond the framework of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. We beg to disagree that this is necessarily unconstitutional. To seek constitutional change and reform (e.g. a shift to federalism) has not been usually treated as unconstitutional, except, it seems, when it has to do with the Moro question. In fact, it is normal for peace processes, as shown by the experience of many countries, to seek and effect constitutional change and reform as needed, for a negotiated political settlement.
In the MOA-AD, the GRP and MILF Peace Panels preferred to use the term “Comprehensive Compact” in lieu of “Final Peace Agreement” largely in order to avoid confusion with the 1996 FPA with the MNLF. If we go back to the early quoted definition of treaty in the MOA-AD, it can be gleaned from the wording “For the purpose of this Agreement, a ‘treaty’ is defined as a solemn agreement in writing that sets out understandings, obligations, and benefits for both parties which provides for a framework that elaborates the principles declared in the Agreement” that the “treaty” referred to here is not the MOA (which is the “Agreement”) but the envisioned Comprehensive Compact (“that elaborates the principles declared in the Agreement”). It is the Comprehensive Compact which would be the real deal “that sets out understandings, obligations, and benefits for both parties.” Let’s not overlook this now with all the sound and fury, and so much ado, about the MOA-AD.
“It’s just a piece of paper. There’s nothing to worry about,” replied Fr. Joaquin Bernas when asked by the Philippine Inquirer about the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between the Arroyo administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“Any change in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) or territory has to go through Congress and a plebiscite. There is nothing to implement. They cannot move without Congress,” he explained.